Any discussion of technology adoption must also consider important constraints and challenges, and the Advisory Board drew deeply from a careful analysis of current events, papers, articles, and similar sources, as well as from personal experience in detailing a long list of challenges institutions face in adopting any new technology. Several important challenges are detailed below, but it was clear that behind them all was a pervasive sense that individual organizational constraints are likely the most important factors in any decision to adopt — or not to adopt — any given technology. While acknowledging that local barriers to technology adoptions are many and significant, the Advisory Board focused its discussions on challenges that are common to institutions and the educational community as a whole.
The highest ranked challenges they identified are listed here, in the order of their perceived importance.
- Even where technology for learning is strongly promoted, there remains a clear need for professional development opportunities around emerging technology. One-to-one computer use is an admirable goal and a worthwhile one, and this strategy has been shown to improve student engagement and access to learning materials. Unfortunately, simply making the equipment available is not sufficient to reap the benefits. Where technology is promoted without an accompanying commitment to professional development for staff, learning suffers. This challenge continues from year to year, as emerging technologies change by their very nature, while professional development opportunities fail to keep up with the pace.
- There is a conceptual mismatch between pedagogical practice and the design of many emerging technologies that makes it difficult for teachers to appreciate or use new tools. Many new technologies are based on underlying values such as openness, collaboration, and community that simply are not in alignment with the majority of teaching practices. Adoption suffers because teachers do not see the connection between their classroom practice and technology tools, particularly social tools that emphasize communication and sharing — two activities often seen as antithetical to learning, study, and especially assessment.
- The need for formal instruction in key new skills, including information literacy, visual literacy, and technological literacy, poses a continuing challenge to educational programs. As noted a year ago, students need — and often lack — a strong understanding of content and media design, the ability to interpret advertising and other media, and the capacity to create multimedia messages that demonstrate visual fluency. A handful of institutions have begun to integrate the teaching of these skills into a standard curriculum, but the practice is not widespread and too many students remain unschooled in this critical area.
- In todays networked world, learners are placing greater value on knowing where to find information than on knowing the information themselves. The ways we learn are changing. The amount of knowledge collectively held by humanity is staggering, and being able to find, evaluate, and synthesize material from a variety of sources is arguably more important than holding much of that knowledge oneself. Young people beginning postsecondary study — and those entering the workforce — are accustomed to constant access to a network of peers on whom they rely for knowledge, expertise, and mutual learning. This cohort may well expect to be able to make use of their own personal learning and social networks, and the technologies that support them, in their places of work or study. Their world is open and mobile, and they expect access to it constantly.
These trends and challenges are a reflection of the impact of technology that is occurring in almost every aspect of our lives. They are indicative of the changing nature of the way we communicate, access information, connect with peers and colleagues, learn, and even socialize. Taken together, they provided the Advisory Board a frame through which to consider the potential impacts of nearly 50 emerging technologies and related practices that were analysed and discussed for possible inclusion in this edition of the Horizon Report. Six of those were chosen as key; they are summarized below and detailed in the main body of the report.